China Airlines Ltd (CAL,中華航空) yesterday confirmed that it would temporarily reduce its cargo flight services to cope with a pilot shortage, as one-sixth of its pilots have been sidelined by a COVID-19 outbreak.
“We are working out a new schedule,” the airline said in a statement after local news media reports on Saturday said that it would be reducing its cargo services from Wednesday, primarily affecting US destinations.
CAL declined to give details about its new operating plan, but the reports said that it would be suspending its cargo flights to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport for two to three weeks.
The number of cargo flights currently operated by the carrier to the three destinations are six, seven and seven per week respectively.
Its weekly flights to Los Angeles International Airport would be reduced from 15 to 14 and those to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport would drop from 20 to 14, the reports said.
In Europe, the airline would fly four flights per week to Luxembourg Airport, instead of seven, and suspend its one weekly flight to Frankfurt Airport, they said.
Service to Asian destinations, such as Singapore Changi Airport, Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Penang International Airport, would also be affected, but to a lesser extent, the reports said.
Twelve CAL pilots have since April 20 been confirmed to have COVID-19, and another two have tested positive for the virus’ antibodies, but the major toll has come from other pilots being quarantined as a precaution.
About 200 of the airline’s 1,200 pilots have been sidelined.
The airline on April 30 announced that it would cancel 24 international passenger flights by Saturday, but keep its profitable cargo operations unchanged.
Many of the passenger flights were planned to be converted to cargo flights.
Thanks to its cargo operations, CAL was one of the few global carriers that reported an after-tax profit last year — NT$140 million (US$5.02 million) — despite an economic slowdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Its revenue on passenger flights was down 76.96 percent year-on-year, compared with 87.06 percent growth in its cargo sector.
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